Muhammad’s Mosque of Islam #12 located at 4218-20 Lancaster Avenue, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, from l957 to l963, was the epicenter of debate and discussion about the future of African Americans in the nation. Serving as the site of the first temple of the Nation of Islam in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Mosque #12 attracted the most highly visible intellectuals and activists of the powerful Black Nationalist tradition that gave birth to self-determination, moral uprightness, Black Studies, self-help organizations, community clubs, black political organizations, and innovative economic ideas.
The NOI appeal and message were articulated in three important categories: Self-Help, Self-Determination, and Self-Love. These three messages were meant to specifically appeal to the “so called Negroes” during the 1950’s & 60’s inasmuch as African people in America had been taught dependence and self hatred. The fact that these messages were sent via Mosque # 12 had a profound impact on the PA African American community at large. The NOI addressed issues which traditional Islam did not ever address. The impact was far reaching and led to the creation of new institutions such as private schools, community centers, and businesses. Black people at the time began stop using the term Negro and started identifying with the continent of Africa by visibly dressing in African clothes and demonstrating a knowledge of African languages, cultural facts, and political history. Mosque # 12 played a pivotal role in Pennsylvania in conveying a healthy sense of racial pride and self worth that gave birth to the Black nationalist movement, Black Power movement and the Christian Church Black Liberation Theology.
Muhammad's Temple of Islam #12
Mosque #12 was unique in the nation because no other mosque of the Nation of Islam could claim the oversight and constant teaching of two of the eminent orators and interpreters of the philosophy of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. Both Minister Malcolm X and Imam Wallace Muhammad served Mosque #12 and both of them went on to become prominent national leaders in the African American community. Malcolm X became the most important African American leader, after Martin Luther King, Jr., in the people’s imagination. Imam Wallace Muhammad, once called “one of the 100 leading thinkers in the United States,” established himself as one of America’s leading critical analysts and interpreters of Islam.
Mosque #12’s location between New York and Washington made it a magnet for scholars, intellectuals, and activists moving between urban communities in the Northeast. People visited Mosque #12 from other towns in Pennsylvania and other cities in the Northeast. Whenever Malcolm X would speak the mosque was sure to have a large contingent of guests from Wilmington, Camden, Trenton, and Chester. Although the mosque was pre-eminently about the spiritual welfare of the community it encouraged political and economic engagement. Numerous national leaders with local roots in Pennsylvania such as Cecil B. Moore and Robert Nix were associated with Mosque #12’s movement to better the conditions of African Americans. Clearly the outreach program that inspired and transformed distressed men, women, and youth who were trapped by drugs, prostitution, alcoholism, and self-pity became a model for the region and nation. Congressman Nix, Sr., and NAACP leader Cecil B. Moore, recognized the work done at Mosque #12.
Wallace D. Mohammed began to acquaint the Philadelphia membership to orthodox Islamic practices. He taught the basics of Islamic prayer and introduced them to readings in the Qur’an- which was never read in Nation of Islam Mosque. This was long before Wallace D. Mohammed became the new national leader of the Nation of Islam in 1975, the time in which he instituted major sweeping changes within the community.
Attendees gathered at Muhammad's Temple of Islam #12 Dedication Ceremony
The NOI and Mosque #12 in PA was the voice of the Muslim Community up to 1975 when the greatest leader and proponent of the Nation of Islam, Elijah Muhammad, passed away. His son, Imam Wallace D. Mohammed became the new leader. Imam Wallace D. Muhammed began to bring traditional Islam to the forefront in America by interpreting its belief system and practices to the community. Prior to that l975 there were very few Muslims in PA practicing traditional Islam and the impact of Islam was very limited.
Rahim Muhammad speaking at Muhammad's Temple of Islam #12 Dedication Ceremony
During this period Mosque #12 was on Lancaster Avenue in West Philadelphia and both Malcolm X and Imam Wallace D. Mohammed were administrators and teachers at this site. The fact that Malcolm X, the most prominent teacher of the Nation of Islam and Imam Wallace D. Muhammad, once called one of America’s most important thinkers by Utne Magazine, officiated at this mosque makes Mosque #12 a historical site of immense importance to African Americans and other Pennsylvanians. This is the site’s primary legacy, that is, these two great outstanding international world leaders teaching from this mosque to inspire a new generation with the doctrine of self-help, self-determination , black consciousness. Their combined call for Freedom, Justice and Equality electrified the Pennsylvania African American community. Today the results of their work is seen in the hundreds of thousands of Muslims today and the millions of African Americans who possess a healthy sense of racial pride and self-worth. Mosque #12 was the name and number for Philadelphia. It was the twelfth Mosque approved and registered with the National headquarters in Chicago. Mosque #12 moved to various locations due to the growth of its membership, yet the congregation always remained intact and unified.
The site of Mosque #12 holds a special, almost sacred, space in the hearts of hundreds of thousands of people in the region and nation. As one of the spots where Muslims and non-Muslims alike will visit to pay their respects to the great deeds accomplished there by those activists and intellectuals of the l950s and l960s, the location of Mosque #12 deserves recognition for its statewide and national significance in the African American struggle of self-determination.
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Mosque #12 significance in the African American struggle for self-determination.
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